The following rules were valid in the early Church (and they are now valid also - but for economia some deviations are permitted) :
(language of the rules is of the time they were established and might seem strict today)
1) The second marriage is permitted in the Church only to those who remained widowed in young age, as the other spouse died, and they had no children.
2) The bigamist is not blessed with wreaths, but by the penance of two years of abstinence from Holy Communion and the trigamist by the penance of three years of abstinence from Holy Communion.
3) If those who married for the second time are elders, they enrage God and they are arranged to repentance over three years to make 24 prostrations a day.
4) A man that is married for a second time can not be ordained (apostolic Canon 17)
5) If a priest is left widow he must not marry a second time. If nevertheless dare to marry, he loses the priesthood and he is not permitted any longer to perform any priestly rituals. (6th canon of st Basil).
6) Third marriage is permitted by the Church only in great need, especially to those who do not have children until the age of 40 years.
As time went by, Christians found that it was very difficult to follow the above rules and nowadays even widow priests are allowed to have a second marriage in some Orthodox Churches. Though second marriage for priests is not permitted in Greece, the Association of Priests in Greece has asked the Holy Greek Orthodox Synod to lift this prohibition.
The matter of more than one marriage has many dimensions, and is very complex. Church tried, over the centuries, to follow strict rules that protect the uniqueness of the first marriage and to inspire her members not to proceed in more than one marriage. But, human nature is weak, thus Church tried to protect her members from falling into fornication, by allowing more than one marriage for her members.
St. Basil wrote in some of his letters some answers on questions for the matter of marriage.
CANONS of St Basil
On the issue of having more than one marriage:
CANON IV. In the case of trigamy and polygamy they laid down the same rule, in proportion, as in the case of digamy; namely one year for digamy (some authorities say two years); for trigamy men are separated for three and often for four years; but this is no longer described as marriage at all, but as polygamy; nay rather as limited fornication....He does not reckon those who had exceeded the limits of a second marriage as worthy of the title of husband or wife. In cases of trigamy we have accepted a seclusion of five years, not by the canons, but following the precept of our predecessors. Such offenders ought not to be altogether prohibited from the privileges of the Church; they should be considered deserving of hearing after two or three years, and afterwards of being permitted to stand in their place; but they must be kept from the communion of the good gift, and only restored to the place of communion after showing some fruit of repentance.
CANON XII. The canon absolutely excludes digamists from the ministry.
On the issue of second marriage
CANON XXIV. A widow whose name is in the list of widows, that is, who is supported by the Church, is ordered by the Apostle to be supported no longer when she marries. 1 Timothy 5:11-12
There is no special rule for a widower. The punishment appointed for digamy may suffice. If a widow who is sixty years of age chooses again to live with a husband, she shall be held unworthy of the communion of the good gift until she be moved no longer by her impure desire. If we reckon her before sixty years, the blame rests with us, and not with the woman.
On the issue of third marriage
CANON L. There is no law as to trigamy: a third marriage is not contracted by law. We look upon such things as the defilements of the Church. But we do not subject them to public condemnation, as being better than unrestrained fornication.
Edited by Lakis Papas, 24 September 2016 - 10:48 PM.